The war in Afghanistan has entered an uncertain phase. The early optimism about delivering a quick knock-out blow to the Taleban through a combination of US and British air power and ground action from the Northern Alliance assisted by allied special forces has evaporated. The Taleban has proved to be more resilient, the Northern Alliance less capable, and Osama bin Laden more elusive than earlier thought. Remarks from the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, not ruling out a larger, Gulf War-style military operation seem to mark a shift in US thinking. Launching a large-scale land operation is not going to be easy. For one thing, the United States and Britain do not have the necessary diplomatic and political support from the countries surrounding Afghanistan for such an escalation of the war. A major land operation will require countries like Pakistan and Uzbekistan to provide staging areas for US forces, in the same way that Saudi Arabia provided bases for the land operations against Iraq during the Gulf War. There is no indication that this is likely to happen. Without such support, The US will only have the ability to airlift lightly armed forces in and out of the country, even if they manage to secure an airbase within Afghanistan. The military campaign looks increasingly likely to become a long drawn out affair. But time is running out. The refugee crisis is growing, reports of civilian casualties are increasing, and, as winter approaches, so does the spectre of mass starvation. Quick, decisive moves are required to remove the Taleban and install a UN-backed interim regime to put Afghanistan back on its feet.